When we heard Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner say yesterday he’s encouraged to hear that the federal government will ask the Government of Canada’s chief actuary to determine how much cash Alberta would actually get if it were to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan, we could predict with reasonable confidence he won’t be particularly pleased when Assia Billig submits her report.
In a statement by the federal finance minister after the special meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers called to deal with the crisis created by Premier Danielle Smith’s scheme to pull Canadians’ retirement savings earned in Alberta out of the CPP, Chrystia Freeland stated that she “would ask the Chief Actuary to provide an estimate of the asset transfer based on a reasonable interpretation in the CPP legislation.” (Emphasis added.)
No matter how you spin it, virtually everyone in Canada understands that the infamous Lifeworks report prepared for the UCP government that concluded Alberta should get a whopping 53 per cent of the CPP investment fund is not a reasonable interpretation.
It is also politically impossible, as every provincial, territorial and federal politician in the country well understands – including, presumably, the separatist cabal so influential in the UCP that has ginned up this crisis to advance its independence agenda. Canadians in every province would be furious if they were told Alberta was walking off with more than half of their retirement fund.
It is an as-yet-unsolved mystery how a respectable actuarial and benefit consulting firm came up with such a preposterous conclusion. It’s suspicious, shall we say, that the Alberta Government has taken measures to ensure no one can ask the report’s author what he or she was thinking by refusing to reveal his or her identity.
Lifeworks, as Mr. Horner noted, presumably in a tip of the hat to the former Liberal finance minister, was previously known as Morneau Shepell. Nowadays, it is a division of Telus Health, a company most often associated with the controversial and now defunct Babylon tele-health app so beloved by the UCP.
The chief actuary’s final number, of course, will undoubtedly prompt a series of conspiracy theories from the hordes of mysterious social media bots that seem to appear out of nowhere whenever a UCP policy runs into public opposition. Indeed, they were buzzing like wasps last night on this very topic.
Nevertheless, this is an excellent issue for the federal Liberals, seemingly on the ropes, to portray themselves as the defenders of Canadians in all provinces outside Quebec who are frightened by the harm Alberta proposes to do to the national pension plan and their own retirements.
This undoubtedly explains the forceful tone of Ms. Freeland’s short statement and her vow that “we will always stand up for the Canada Pension Plan and the secure and dignified retirement it provides to all Canadians.”
Mr. Horner’s response was misleading in several ways. It is highly doubtful the UCP’s attempted hijacking of the CPP fund is being sensitively planned with the retirement of other Canadians in mind, as he suggested. Indeed, it seems likely, the opposite is quite possible.
Nor is it true that “Alberta has been having an open discussion about the possibility of establishing an Alberta Pension Plan.” On the contrary, Albertans have been inundated with intentionally misleading advertising paid for with their own tax dollars to persuade they to swallow the bait. The process is opaque and manipulative.
As for Mr. Horner’s claim “this will only happen if Albertans vote to do so in a referendum,” rumours abound that if the UCP loses the referendum, or even if it doesn’t hold one, that the Smith Government intends to proclaim it has consulted enough and push ahead with the scheme regardless.
The second bill on the government’s agenda in the session of the Legislature that opened Monday, the tendentiously named Pension Protection Act, says Albertans will get to ratify the pension-exit idea in a referendum, but does not require the government to accept the referendum’s result. Needless to say, this troubles many.
The rest of Mr. Horner’s statement is mostly Ottawa bashing rhetoric typical of the UCP.
The Office of the Chief Actuary is an independent unit within federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. It provides a range of actuarial valuation and advisory services to the Government of Canada.
Interest high as UCP AGM begins
The UCP’s annual general meeting started last night in Calgary. Unusually for a political party’s AGM, there is intense outside interest in the outcome of the vote for party directors, as it is widely expected the extremist Take Back Alberta faction will try to complete its takeover of the board.
But even in the event the board comes to be totally dominated by TBA, the jury remains out on how much influence it will have on the party’s legislative caucus.
As with any political party, the predictable policy resolutions on the agenda – many of them extremist claptrap – do not have to be adopted by MLAs. This is why old party resolutions never die, they just come to pass.